Valene M., journalist
Last week on March 4th, astronomers at the CARMENES consortium announced the discovery of the exoplanet Gleis 486b, a rocky and sweltering super-Earth. It closely orbits the red dwarf star Gleis 486 at 24 light-years from Earth, making it relatively close in the grand scheme of space. Although it is 30% larger than Earth and boasts about 2.8 times more mass, it is assumed to be relatively similar to familiar rocky planets like Earth and Venus in its makeup. It is even believed to have a metallic core. In fact, with a projected surface temperature of 430 degrees Celsius, Gleis 486b bears a notable resemblance to the searing Venus, albeit with a thin and insubstantial atmosphere.
Continue reading “The Discovery of Gleis 486b and Why It Matters In The Search For Life, Habitability, and Understanding In Space”
Valene McInerney, journalist
Long ago, people would look to the night sky and observe only natural celestial bodies. Artificial lights did not blot and blur their sights, and human-made satellites did not crowd their horizons. Both of these phenomena factor into modern astronomy, but it has only been in the past 19 months that satellites have become a threat to astronomical observation. With the recent surge in satellite launches and the construction of satellite mega-constellations, hobbyists and professional astronomers alike are witnessing what can be a dangerous disruption and distortion of their cosmic viewing.
Continue reading “Satellite Mega-Constellations, Hampered Science, and a Cluttered Orbit”
Valene M., journalist
Guarded by three concrete towers, admired by the 900-ton observatory that hung so precariously over it, and equipped with shining aluminum panels to stretch its 1,000ft diameter, the Arecibo Telescope was a colossal structure, both in physical size and historical significance. For 57 years, this giant, which was the world’s largest radio telescope until recently, proved itself an invaluable center for radio astronomy as it mapped planets, guided spacecrafts, tracked asteroids, and searched for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence. This last August, its end began when one of 18 cables suspending its hovering observatory slipped and crashed into the panels at the edge of the dish. The damage then was not irreparable, but on November 6th, another cable snapped in half and gouged the center of the dish. With two cables out of commission, the platform above it was in danger of falling at any moment, making repair too dangerous to attempt. The National Science Foundation closed the dish permanently and prepared for its controlled demolition. Then on December 1st, the platform and the 900 tons of instruments that it held came crashing down, sealing the telescope’s fate.
Continue reading “The Arecibo Telescope and The Legacy That Remains”